In 1944, a 20-year-old Guy Whidden cut his hair into a mohawk just before the D-Day invasions.
The paratrooper was following a trend at the time where soldiers sought to intimidate the Germans through their choice of hairstyle.
But the day before D-Day, a lieutenant told Whidden he couldn’t keep the unusual hairdo. So when he jumped the next day with the 101st Airborne Division, Whidden was bald.
Now 96, Whidden thought back to those days and came up with a plan to pay tribute to his fellow soldiers who are no longer with us and at the same time spread some joy to everyone cooped up during the coronavirus pandemic.
Whidden had himself filmed outside with a blue barber’s cloth draped over him while his granddaughter, Lydia Arshadi, cut his hair into a mohawk.
Whidden said that he knew it would get a laugh out of people. He also admitted that there wasn’t much else to do while he waits at home.
In the video, Whidden says that he feels like “a young buck” and challenges other airborne forces to join him with the unique hairstyle. He also states that the haircut came out well – except for it being gray.
Thousands have replied to Whidden with many posting photos of their own mohawk haircuts as part of the #MohawkChallenge.
Whidden said that getting people to laugh is important to him. He knows that this is a difficult time for many people.
In some ways, he feels the current situation is more difficult than the war. He said that people weren’t dying at home during the war. So many people are dying before their time, he said.
But he sees one positive similarity between the two times. Both hardships brought people together. He hopes that his new hairstyle helps lift their spirits during these times.
Whidden, who lives in Maryland, volunteered for the army after hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor. He said that he didn’t worry about being killed but saw it as an adventure.
His first work with the military was as a topographical engineer who created the maps used in planning for the battles. Not enthused with this line of work, he soon joined the airborne forces.
He was among the first to jump into Normandy for the D-Day invasions. He landed safely but was immediately knocked out by supplies dropping on a parachute. When he woke up, he was in the middle of the battle.
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He said it was dark out but occasional explosions would light everything up before it all went back to darkness.
Planes were crashing around him. Germans and Allied soldiers were mixed together. “You’d be surprised just how close we were together,” Whidden said.
He also jumped into Holland during operation Market Garden in September, 1944. He was severely wounded near Best during a mortar attack when three of his best friends were killed by the same mortar.
Guy was still recovering in a hospital when the Battle of the Bulge happened. After his recovery, he was sent back to Fort Benning and became a jump school instructor.
Guy Whidden was awarded with the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry badge, a Netherlands Orange Lanyard, and the Good Conduct Medal.
Guy has written a book about his WWII experiences titled: Between the Lines and Beyond. It recounts his time served in World War II through letters written home to his mother.
He remained in Normandy for 35 days on the mission that eventually led to the liberation of France.